All 8000 colonists in Gaza are due to be evacuated from the Palestinian territory by September next year under the terms of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan.
But in an attempt to thwart the operation, a small group of right-wing Jewish activists have begun offering military-style training courses at the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the southern Gaza, with the aim of recruiting hundreds of youths.
“This is a preparation camp for youths to learn how to combat and resist Sharon’s plan to expel the Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria,” camp organiser Baruch Ben Yosef said.
“They are learning how to get through army and police lines in order to resist the expulsion, if and when it happens.”
Journalists invited to a top-secret tour of the camp on Tuesday were shown the teenagers being put through their paces in a series of training exercises.
Arms linked to form a human chain, a group of five Israeli teenagers playing the role of border guards lined themselves up on the white sand beach, bracing for imminent attack.
Organisers claim 250 youths from
Two others hurled themselves full pelt at the wall of human flesh in an effort to get through.
“Just think of them as real border guards,” yells someone as the “wall” collapsed on the two runners in an attempt to stop them getting through.
Elsewhere, war like cries pierced the air as another group of youths stormed a former Palestinian home close to the sea front – part of an exercise in taking over a building and barricading themselves inside.
Although almost all of teenage trainees were wearing some form of religious trappings, they were by no means all settlers with many of the 250 participants hailing from towns and cities across Israel.
“If Gush Katif is evacuated, the Arabs will take over the Gaza Strip,” explained a 20-year-old from Tel Aviv who did not give his name.
“If Gush Katif is evacuated, the Arabs will take over the Gaza Strip”
20-year-old activist from Tel Aviv
“We don’t actually believe it will ever reach the point of evacuation but we’re preparing for it anyway,” adds another.
According to the organisers, the camp covers a variety of practical and ideological subjects: lectures on the importance of preventing the pullout, seminars on leadership and how to recruit others, and practical instruction on how to physically resist evacuation. There are even courses on how to handle interrogation by the police or security forces.
Eye for an eye
“Resistance will be according to the force used against us,” says Ben Yosef. “If it’s verbal, we will respond verbally. If it’s sticks, we will use sticks. Nobody is going to pick up a gun if we’re not shot at, but if we are, we will shoot back.”
The camp’s organisers are all former students of the extremist right-wing rabbi Meir Kahane, Ben Yosef said, explaining that many of them were involved in the attempt to stop the evacuation of the Yamit settlement from the Sinai two decades ago after the Egypt-Israel peace accord.
“We know what has to be done – we have learned from our failures at Yamit, in that we didn’t prepare early enough, there weren’t enough people involved and the wrong people were leading the whole campaign.”